Chapter 69

The next day the Cadillac pulled up around the same time. Pete was complaining that his stomach was grumbling.

“There he is,” Hank whispered coming to attention. He had been slumping in the car seat next to Pete. “Hey, they’re leaving right away. That snake must have been watching for him. They didn’t even switch drivers this time.” They followed at a discrete distance.

The car turned at the first intersection, and again where it emerged onto the state highway. A short while later it took an exit and stopped in front of a high-class restaurant. The signboard by the door boasted clams on the half shell and filet mignon. Pete held his stomach and groaned. “Wouldn’t you know it. They’re going to have a leisurely lunch and I’m starving. Here we sit and wait while those jokers are having fancy food. I wonder what the rest of his tribe are eating out of their paper bags.”

“Probably peanut butter sandwiches,” Hank laughed. He was hungry, too.

Pete hit on an idea, “Hank, these guys never saw me. Why don’t I slip in and order a couple of take-out burgers. You know how long these places take for sit down meals?”

Hank nodded and took out his wallet. When Pete had gone he smiled to himself. The irony of it. A friendship had really blossomed. Though he and Gus and Jim had always considered themselves inseparable, they discovered that Gus stayed his distance when there was trouble, and Pete stepped forward as a true friend.

Hank practiced with the camera, taking imaginary shots, then focusing in with the long lens, marveling at the capability of the camera.

They had ample time to eat their burgers before the two men emerged from the restaurant. In a parking spot well off the main entrance, Hank focused the camera and took several shots as one of the men checked his fly with a quick wave of the hand, and the other cleaned his teeth with a tooth pick. They were smiling and jovial. The camera snapped the two in their pleasure, with the restaurant sign as a backdrop

Following at a comfortable distance, they headed back to the farm house where the leader was again dropped off and the car sped away.

The next day the scene was repeated. The followers worked while their leader played. Hank went in for the burgers because Pete might be recognized. Back at the hideout they had made their decision. It was time to make their move before the locations were switched.

Saturday all the members were taken to the same stations and store fronts. Cash drew a sign of relief when Trish was dropped off at the same store. A few of the girls went inside,but Trish and another girl were posted outside. Cash was visibly nervous in the back seat, as were the other men. “This is probably the last day in this location. They will move next time out. They don’t want to become too noticeable.”  Cash chewed on the end of an unlit cigar. “I’d hate to set this up all over again. It’s now or never, boys,”

Pete, said, “That’s the second time that police cruiser passed. Maybe that’s why some of them went inside.”

Jim was impatient. “Let’s get the damned thing over. I’m tired of waiting.”

“For once I agree with you, Jim. That cop just got back into the traffic pattern.  We better move. You all know what to do.” Cash got out and pretended to give a donation to the pair. He paused to ask a question. Pete was right behind him, while Jim did a quick search for police cars and maneuvered the car into position for the grab.

Cash waited until the audience had left, carrying pamphlets and pencils. He pressed a donation into Trish’s hand and grabbed her other arm and quickly held her against his towering body. She cried out in surprise and tried to break free of his tightening grip. Pete shoved the other girl away while Hank opened the car door helping Cash push her into the car so it looked as though they were merely helping her.

“Sit down, Trish,” Jim commanded from the front seat.  There was scuffle and loud abusive language. Then Pete held her down on one side and Cash on the other. Hank jumped into the front seat, closing the door as the car joined into the passing traffic. The girl on the curb was shouting, calling for help as several bewildered shoppers gathered around her. There was little interest helping her, more of curiosity of what had just happened. Eventually they walked away, unwilling to be involved. The girl kept waving her hands frantically and crying until the others members finally came out of the shop and stood staring at the hysterical girl. They all seemed at a loss as what to do next.

In a few minutes Jim was heading out of the shopping district toward his destination. He kept checking the rear-view mirror for fear of being followed or being noticed by other drivers. Traffic began to thin and he relaxed slightly. Though the screaming from the back seat had him on edge. When they arrived at the secluded area, he felt nearly as hysterical as the girl on the corner. He tried to gather his thoughts for what lay ahead, Cash had given them warning as to what was to come.